PASADENA, Calif. (AP) — A roundup of news Saturday from the Television Critics Association winter meeting, at which TV networks and streaming services are presenting details on upcoming programs:
“The Muppets” is undergoing a heart transplant before it comes back on ABC.
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The network had high hopes for the adult-oriented comedy featuring the famed puppets on its fall schedule, but it fell flat. Co-creator Bob Kushell has been replaced by a new backstage chief, Kristin Newman, and it is being revamped for its return after a winter hiatus, said Paul Lee, president of the ABC Entertainment Group.
“We didn’t quite feel it had the joy, the laughter and the heart that we were hoping for,” Lee said.
Makers of the upcoming ABC comedy “Uncle Buck” brushed aside concerns that the series could make some black viewers uncomfortable about stereotyping.
The series, due on ABC sometime this spring, is a remake of the 1989 movie of the same name. The late John Candy starred in the film as a lazy, hustler-type character called on by his more responsible brother to take care of his kids in an emergency. ABC’s remake has an all-black cast, with Mike Epps featured in the lead role.
“Believe it or not, there’s an Uncle Buck in every race,” Epps said.
The series has two white executive producers, Steve Cragg and Brian Bradley. Bradley said more than half of the series’ staff is composed of minorities.
The ABC Family network is pointedly getting rid of the “ABC” in its name when it makes the transition to the Freeform network on Tuesday.
Most attention has been paid to the removal of “Family” in the name change. “Family” was deemed unhip for the Disney-owned network that is focused on reaching women aged 18 to 34, or the group in between “their first kiss and first kid,” said network chief Tom Ascheim.
The sense of discovering something new on their own is important to people in this age group, and having a well-known brand like ABC or Disney in the name plays against that instinct, he said.
With an eye to the future, Ascheim said he doesn’t necessarily want the Freeform brand associated just with a television network. In focus groups, consumers were asked what they thought of the name if it was tied to a clothing line or streaming service, for example.
The name change is ushered in with a marathon of episodes of “Pretty Little Liars,” ABC Family’s most popular show, and a new episode on Wednesday. Ascheim said the network is also working with pop star Nicki Minaj on a comedy about her life growing up.
Actress Alexis Carra is moving directly from “Mixology,” a short-lived ABC sitcom whose setting is one night in a Manhattan bar, to a new series for the Freeform network about trying to overcome substance abuse.
Carra said that she attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings to prepare for her work in “Recovery Road,” which premieres Jan. 25.
The actress and some others involved in “Recovery Road” purposely didn’t drink while the series was made, she said, adding that she does like to have an occasional glass of wine.
“A few of us were more successful than others,” Carra said.
Film producer J.J. Abrams isn’t likely to forget his visit with writer Stephen King in Maine.
After dinner, the celebrated horror writer suggested they go see a horror movie, said Abrams, who has just made an adaptation of King’s novel “11.22.63” for the Hulu streaming service.
They saw “The Descent,” a 2005 film about women trapped in a cave system and hunted by flesh-eating humanoids.
“Every time somebody did something horrible onscreen, he would cheer, and I just fell in love with him,” Abrams said.
Producer Chris Brancato of the ABC biblical drama, “Of Kings and Prophets,” isn’t lacking for confidence. The ABC series debuts on March 8.
“This is a non-dragging version of (HBO’s) ‘Game of Thrones,'” he said.
EAR OR NOSE?
Comic actor Seth Rogen is making a version of the graphic novel “Preacher” into a television series for the AMC network with partners Sam Catlin and Evan Goldberg. And it made for some interesting discussions at work.
They had to weigh how many of the comic book’s graphic scenes should be put on camera. There was one long debate, for example, about whether a character’s ear or nose would be bitten off. The ear was deemed less gross.
“We want the show to be fun for regular people with not sick sensibilities,” Rogen said. “Put that on a poster.”
The series debuts this summer.